Shell Sets The Pace In Promoting Pipeline Safety

Call Before You Dig
August 2010 Vol. 65 No. 8
Mary Mujica accepts the President’s Award on behalf of Shell from CGA president Bob Kipp (left) and (right) Vic Weston, chairman

“The problem, however, is that the centers’ names aren’t consistent,” Kipp explained. “Many people couldn’t find the number in the phone book in the past, and they often wouldn’t bother searching.”

As a result, damage from digging has become a leading cause of pipeline failure. Over the past decade, excavation has accounted for about 30 percent of releases that are significant because of their volume or because they resulted in an injury or fatality.

To address this issue, the DoT brought about 160 industry professionals together in the late 1990s to identify methods of damage prevention. They submitted a 260-page report outlining 133 best practices to Congress in August 1999.

After completing the study, the group continued to meet to promote implementation of these practices. In 2000, they formed the Common Ground Alliance; Kipp became its first president in 2001. Today, the association has more than 1,400 individual and 185 corporate members representing every facet of the underground utility industry.

In testimony before Congress, Kipp suggested establishing a single, three-digit phone number that could be dialed anywhere in the country and be routed to the closest one-call center. The result was 811, which took effect May 1, 2007. Since then, CGA has worked aggressively to build public awareness through activities ranging from conducting a national “Call Before You Dig” promotional campaign to establishing a website to provide information on the call-before-you-dig process to convincing the Senate and more than 40 state governors to declare April as National Safe Digging Month. However, Kipp made this point: “The most powerful part of CGA is that our members do all the work and are committed to reducing damages.”

Leading by example
As Kipp pointed out, “When it comes to pipeline safety, Shell not only talks the talk but walks the walk, starting from the top of the organization. At our annual meeting last year, Shell Pipeline President Mary Mujica told attendees about what Shell does to prevent pipeline damage, and she challenged all the rest of the companies to do more.”

Some CGA members are taking Mujica up on that challenge. After Shell became the first company to contribute $100,000 to the association in 2007, earning it recognition as a Platinum Sponsor, others followed suit.

“Until then, we had only five Gold Sponsors who contributed $50,000 each,” Kipp reported. “Now we have six Platinum Sponsors.”